A health worker prepares to perform a test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on a member of the public at a pop-up testing center in Sydney, Australia on Aug. 30, 2021. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

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SYDNEY, Dec. 23 (Reuters) – Australia’s COVID-19 testing facilities were heavily overloaded on Thursday amid a record spike in cases and tens of thousands of domestic travelers crowded the centers to get the test results needed for the trip between the States were required at Christmas.

Most states require travelers to have a negative test result 72 hours prior to departure in order to enter, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison telling them to relax testing requirements, which he believes are redirecting resources that could be used to expedite adoption the booster recordings.

More than 8,200 new cases were reported in Australia on Thursday, the largest daily surge in the pandemic that dwarfed the previous high of around 5,600 the day before. Most of the cases are in the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria.

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Despite the spike, people in hospitals remain far lower than they did during the delta wave as active coronavirus cases in the country neared 44,000.

Around 800 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals across the country as of December 20, but only 37 of those are Omicron cases, the health department said in an email response. Only one case is in the intensive care unit and no deaths have been reported.

Morrison had asked people to focus more on the number of people in hospitals than the overall infections, and opposed calls for a national mandatory rule on wearing masks indoors.

But Victorian state authorities said they would make masks mandatory indoors starting Thursday night, while the state of Queensland also has mandatory mask rules, with health officials saying the spread of the virus has become “inevitable and necessary”.

“In order for us to move from the pandemic phase to an endemic phase, the virus has to be widespread. We all need to have immunity, “Queensland chief health officer John Gerrard told reporters.

Even amid the Omicron wave, Australia’s 273,000 infections and 2,173 deaths are far lower than many other countries.

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Reporting from Renju Jose; Arrangement by Michael Perry

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